Shortly after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order ending the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries — reversing one of Donald Trump’s signature acts and signaling a more inclusive vision for America.

Biden’s move sent reverberations of optimism, albeit cautious, through Chicago’s Muslim community.

“It’s a day of celebration for Muslims, not only in Chicago but throughout the United States,” said Saba Khan, chairperson for civic engagement at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. “It’s a joyous time. I feel like we are getting our America back. We stumbled for a time, but we are back, hopefully.”

Khan said her organization spent the last four years offering support and guidance to families and individuals who were unable to travel to see relatives, or who feared that if they did, they’d be barred from coming back home to the United States to rejoin friends and family, complete academic studies, continue medical treatments they’d begun here, or return to the careers they’d built and cultivated.

“Just knowing there are not these kind of restrictions,” Khan said, “that there is now this freedom for people, that they can go back when they want to go back and, of course, follow due process and in compliance with laws and in compliance with rules. It’s an amazing feeling, to know you are free to go visit your own family and your own people when you want to.”

In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order placing a 120-day pause on the refugee resettlement program, placed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and banned nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Later that year, he introduced a version of the ban that lasted indefinitely.

In June 2018 , the Supreme Court upheld the ban, rejecting a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded Trump’s authority by a vote of 5-4.

“The last four years brought so much agony that did not need to happen,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Thousands of families were affected by this needlessly. Biden lifting the Muslim ban as one of his first executive orders feels like the right correction of that history.”

Rehab’s organization established a traveler’s assistance project to match lawyers to travelers who are “Muslim or Muslim-perceived” and who worried about being detained without cause.

“We saw a lot of agony,” Rehab said, “a lot of tears.”

Naser Nasser, an immigration consultant who lives in Chicago and works out of Palos Hills, has spent the last four years helping clients fill out immigration forms and travel to and from the United States for medical care, academic studies and more. He said COVID-19 has added a layer of complication onto a system already filled with roadblocks.

“We’ve had families not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again with this pandemic,” Nasser said. “Lifting this ban is a huge deal.”

Welcoming more immigrants to travel in and out of the United States more freely is a boon to America too, Nasser said.

“The travel ban limited the expertise from people overseas who are valuable assets to the country — doctors, scientists, engineers,” Nasser said. “Besides reuniting families, getting rid of the ban is a good asset to America.”

Rehab said lifting the ban is a vote of confidence in America’s people and the systems it has in place to protect them.

“My take has always been, if we’re going to take on where you were born and what faith you have and your nationality as singular factors for whether you’re a security threat, we’re both selling our security short and hurting families needlessly,” Rehab said. “Do the work to figure out who’s a danger and who’s not. The ban was lazy, political red meat to the base. This is a correction.”

Khan said the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago is inviting faith-based organizations around Chicago to write notes of support and celebration for Biden’s executive order. She and her colleagues will share the notes on CIOGC’s website and social media channels.

“The purpose is to send a message that we are happy about what happened,” Khan said, “and we are going to hold the Biden administration to the promise they made on their first day.”

The ban, Rehab said, can be eliminated with a pen stroke. The sentiments that fed it and were stoked by it can’t.

“I’m not going to fool myself into thinking you sign a piece of paper and the culture and mentality changes overnight,” Rehab said. “But I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s the right step, absolutely.”

I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a step closer to the promise of an America that embraces, protects and values people of all faiths, all backgrounds, all nationalities.